How to Balance School and Work

The school year is starting back up again, and for many students that means both taking classes and working part-time. Whether working a professional internship or a gig just to pay the bills, balancing a job with college requires hard work and determination. Either is difficult alone, but together they can seem impossible. Plus, as the exams begin to accumulate, so does the stress. So how does one deal with living the life of a student and employee?

Set a Schedule

One of the first steps to take when attempting to balance work and school comes by outlining your schedule. Rope off specific times for class, your job, studying, and hanging out with friends. Try your best to not let those sections overlap, and don’t leave any of them out. This might seem like an obvious plan, but actually having a written schedule helps many people to visualize their time management. 

Once you’ve set a schedule, stick to it. If your job ends for the day at 5, be done at 5. Courtney, Hiring Expert at ADP, explains this further: “If you start regularly answering emails late at night, or always say yes when asked to work beyond normal hours, then you are allowing an employer to take advantage of your willingness to go above and beyond.”1 While you want to make a good impression with your employer (and maybe extend your job beyond college), it is still necessary to leave yourself some free time. If you devote all of your hours to work, you won’t have time to decompress, and you’ll be much more likely to experience burnout.

Make Time for Loved Ones

Although it might feel like you’re too busy to meet up with friends, make time. Enjoying an evening--or even just an hour--with friends helps you to unload your stress and be ready to start the next day.

Sylvia, Hiring Expert at HP Inc., suggests that you should “plan nights and weekends with events or create a to-do list to help keep you on track.” Such a strategy prevents a work overload and creates a more balanced personal life. 

Ask for Help

For more information on establishing a work-life balance, Sylvia recommends a TEDtalk found here. She explains that “it gives a good perspective about setting the habit [of balance] early on so when the time comes and you have a family it's easier to manage.”2

Pick the Right Employer

If you live in a college town or have an on-campus job, odds are your employer is accustomed to working with students. Still, even if your boss commonly works with students, he or she might still pressure you to take on more than you bargained for or work certain hours that don’t fit within your schedule. In a case like this, Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T, explains: “It's best to be transparent with an employer from the beginning, especially if your course schedule can impact your work schedule.”3 Explain to your boss that your classes are important, too; and sometimes, that means you can’t do quite as much work.

It may happen that your employer begins to view your enrollment in school as a negative rather than positive endeavor. Patricia, Hiring Expert at ADP explains how to handle such a situation: “Manage the narrative. You are pursuing an advanced degree because you have drive and initiative. You have a thirst for knowledge that you bring to all your endeavors, including working part time for an organization.” She also points out, “If they aren't hiring for a full time role, the likelihood that an organization expects the part time gig to be your #1 priority is pretty slim.”4

More than likely, your employer will understand. At one point, he or she was probably in a very similar situation. If, however, your boss truly won’t work around your class schedule, it might be time to consider that he or she isn’t the boss for you.

For most students, college classes range from 12-18 hours each semester (discounting outside time for homework, projects, and studying) while part-time jobs typically take up anywhere from 10-29 hours a week. If you’re a student worker, this means that, at best, you’re busy 22 hours a week, but potentially more than 40! Once you factor in commute time or stretches spent studying, your hours can equate to more than that of a full time employee.

Keeping both a job and good grades won’t be easy, but with planning and dedication, it is certainly possible. It will all be worth it when you’re able to pay off student loans and have an early start on #gettingthatjob.


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